Alenia Pulls out of AFA at Last Minute


Alenia North America, a key contender in the upcoming USAF T-38C replacement competition, is a no-show at the annual Air Force Assn. meeting in Orlando Feb. 21-22.

The company had been slated to occupy the prime slot, right next to the entry of the exhibit floor. And, when Finmeccanica, which owns Alenia, does a booth, you know it. True to the company's Italian roots, the booth is often the brightest and shiniest -- draped in red and decked out with good food and displays. The Italians aren't known to do shows half-way.

The hole left here at the show by Alenia, however, left the Air Force Assn. to hastily crafted a huge information booth and lounge space here. The spot is adjacent to T-X competitors Lockheed Martin, which is offering the T-50 with Korea Aerospace Industries, and Northrop Grumman, offering a Hawk with teammate BAE.

The last-minute reversal comes after the CEO of Italian-based Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, was arrested for corruption charges. And it comes only weeks after Alenia announced its alliance with U.S.-based General Dynamics; the show would have been an ideal venue for the team to debut its marketing campaign. The pair is proposing an M346-based option to the Air Force for the T-X competition.

But, the competition timeline is slipping. And, with executives in Rome being booked for corruption, perhaps the North America arm of Alenia opted to simply take a low profile.

By contrast, Beechcraft, which just emerged from bankruptcy, is happy to be here and showing its renewed flag. The company is vying against a Sierra Nevada/Embraer team for the Air Force's Light  Air Support contract. The service was slated to announce a winner tomorrow, but that has slipped to next week.

Alenia, however, is not the only one not to show up. Attendance and traffic are low this year on the exhibit floor owing to the uncertainty with the defense budget.

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